Biggert, Manzullo, Roskam, Shimkus show up for remap court fight

November 17, 2011

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(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)

Four Republicans from Illinois' congressional delegation showed up in federal court Thursday in Chicago. They're testifying that new district boundaries drawn by Democrats would disenfranchise Republicans.

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus told a three-judge panel he'd hoped there would've been a bipartisan compromise on redistricting - as there was the last time the boundaries were drawn, ten years ago. Shimkus testified he met privately about a deal with a fellow downstate congressman, Democrat Jerry Costello, early this year.

But Democrats, as the controlling party in Springfield, ended up drawing the map on their own. Those boundaries imperil the re-election chances of about half the state's Republican delegation. Shimkus' own seat is safe, but he's a party in the lawsuit against the map, which he called "egregious."

As for the failed negotiations with Costello, who's not seeking another term, Shimkus got choked up when testifying about his "close friend and confidante." The court took a short recess.

On cross-examination, Shimkus was questioned about why he didn't participated in hearings Democrats called to discuss the map - hearings Republicans claim were publicly stunts. Shimkus chuckled.

"Is there something funny, congressman?" lawyer Devon Bruce asked.

Shimkus replied, "There's something very funny."

Three other GOP members of Congress are also testifying against the new boundaries: Judy Biggert, Don Manzullo and Peter Roskam.

In addition to alleging the map overreaches in its attempts to target Republicans, the lawsuit claims the boundaries dillute the voting power of Illinois' Latinos. That's where lawyers for the Republicans began their case on Thursday morning.

Chicago resident Luis Sanabria testified it seemed like Democratic map-makers wanted Latinos to be "bunched up, corralled into the same district" in an effort to reduce their influence in neighboring congressional districts.

In response, a lawyer defending the boundaries pointed out no Latino lawmakers voted against it when it passed the General Assembly.